Volunteer Spotlight: Harvey Cohen
In the early 80’s I got into English Country Dancing. I was dating a teacher who had a student in the Christmas show chorus and we got front row tickets. In the show, there were some familiar faces from the weekly English dance including Helene Cornelius, Jacqueline Schwab, Chris Walker, and some other Pinewoods Morris Men. Then I became a regular Christmas Revels attendee.
I am not exactly sure how I started as a volunteer. I was an active volunteer in both NEFFA and CDS (Country Dance Society), Boston Centre. Nancy Hanssen was the volunteer coordinator for Revels and was also active in NEFFA. We both lived in Framingham and got to be friends. Nancy recruited me to help Revels. I believe my first assignment was doing parking at a Spring Revels in Lincoln. I still have the green cap that I wore! Later, I had the good fortune to take an early retirement and was happy to become part of the volunteer steering committee.
Shortly after, Nancy approached me to supervise the volunteers at the ‘Books and Records’ booth during the Christmas show. That went from 1992 to 2002. After every show, I would count the money and then send a Fax to the office with the tally. Somehow the revenue was up, the office was happy and as a reward, I had the opportunity to go backstage and to watch many shows evolve and learn some theater. Jack (Revels Founder John Langstaff) would come in and always ask me if I had seen the show.
The booth I inherited was cumbersome to move and store. I devised the current design but made the mistake of painting the superstructure a color similar to the stage props. It was soon discarded. I then rebuilt it and painted it bright red. That incarnation has lasted over 25 years.
I would make the bank deposit from the Records booth at my bank in Framingham. One time, the bank teller gave me a funny look. She was a regular Christmas Revels attendee and did not expect to find anyone from that far west who would be involved with the Revels. Also, one night, an older woman came to the table in a panic and insisted to see Jack who was in the show that year. She had forgotten her tickets. I solved that one.
Over the years I have done a lot of baking and cooking for the Revels, wassail parties, cast parties, Spring Sing, and cast suppers during the show. I have helped at mailings and making props. Do you remember the orange flowers for the 1994 MesoAmerican Revels? There was the egg at the beginning of the 1993 Northland/Scandanavian Christmas Revels. Even though the backstage area is a nut-free zone I supply nut-coated rugelach during Hanukkah to Jonathan in the Sanders office (shhh – don’t tell!). There were a couple of dirty jobs. I helped relocate the warehouse from Cambridge to its current location. In 2000, for The Mysteries at the Cyclorama in Boston, I led the assembly of the heavy Hadden Hall structure and then hung the very dirty rugs, which many thought were real tapestries.
Currently, I live in Brookline and ride in on the bus to Harvard Square. I prefer to help on many of the two show days and do a stint at the sales table, security, and supply some desserts for the cast meal.
When not at the Revels, there is my condo and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLIE) Program at UMASS Boston. I have been a docent for Boston by Foot and have helped to revise three tours. I recently became a docent for the Vilna Shul synagogue in Boston and am now researching material for a Jewish tour of the West End.